Bush Confers With World Leaders About Iraq

President Bush discussed the situation in Iraq Friday with top national security aides and with three foreign leaders who have sent troops there, expressing sorrow for the first Salvadoran soldier killed.

Bush spoke by phone with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search), Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (search) and El Salvadoran President Francisco Flores (search).

Nearly 3,000 Italian troops and paramilitary police are serving in Iraq; 2,400 Polish; 380 El Salvadoran.

Seventeen Italians have died in Iraq, and one each from El Salvador and Poland.

Bush discussed "the current situation in Iraq" with the leaders, and "all four leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to helping the Iraqi people realize a free and democratic future," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The leaders vowed to defeat the "minority, extremist elements who seek to derail the transition to democracy through a violent power play," he said.

Bush also expressed condolences to Flores for the death of Natividad Mendez Ramos, 19, a Salvadoran killed Sunday near Najaf. Twelve Salvadorans were also wounded Sunday.

Bush did not speak with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (search), who was plunged into his deepest crisis since taking office when three Japanese were abducted in Iraq.

Their Iraqi captors threatened to burn the Japanese hostages alive unless Japan withdraws from Iraq, and in Japan, thousands of protesters pressed the government Friday to pull out.

Vice President Dick Cheney was departing for Asia Friday, carrying a personal appeal to Japanese leaders to resist pressure from the kidnappers who want foreign troops pulled out of Iraq.

Bush received an update on military operations in Iraq in a National Security Council (search) meeting via secure videoconference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; White House chief of staff Andy Card; national security adviser Condoleezza Rice; CIA Director George Tenet; Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command; the top American in Iraq, Paul Bremer; and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. general in Iraq.

They discussed efforts by the U.S. military in Fallujah (search) and other parts of Iraq, including efforts to defeat radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) and his "extremist militia," McClellan said.

And they talked about the threat of attacks by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian believed to be running a terrorist network, during Iraqi Shiite pilgrimages to southern Iraq. The pilgrimage is the "type of large gathering that Zarqawi has talked about attacking and then seeking to blame the coalition," McClellan said.

Rice was to arrive at Bush's ranch Friday, where the Bush family was gathering for a long Easter weekend.

The president's parents, mother-in-law, daughters and Rice were all planning to attend church together Sunday at Fort Hood, Texas.